The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) took credit for the suicide attack in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on Saturday which killed 35 people and wounded 125. If the claim is true, it is the first appearance on this scale of the terrorist group in Afghanistan.
A bomber detonated a vest packed with explosives in front of a bank early Saturday morning while soldiers and civilians stood in line to cash their paychecks. Victims also included children near the bank.
“Today the deadly attack in Nangarhar Province — who claimed responsibility?” said Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. “Taliban did not claim responsibility, but Daesh claimed responsibility.”
Ghani did not reveal how he knew ISIS was responsible. Some Afghan media outlets reported they received text messages from Wilayat Khorasan, a group affiliated with ISIS, that took credit for the attack.
One outlet claimed Shahidullah Shahid, a former Pakistani Taliban member, told them he is the spokesman for the ISIS branch in Afghanistan and they are indeed responsible for the slaughter. Shahid left the Taliban in October to join ISIS along with five other top commanders. In January, Shahid and 15 militants appeared in a video to pledge allegiance to ISIS. To prove their loyalty, the terrorists beheaded a man they claimed was a Pakistani soldier.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid denied his group’s involvement and also condemned the bombing.
“On ISIS we don’t comment,” he told The New York Times. “We haven’t commented on them in the past, and we will not say anything now. We are responsible for the war in this country and that is all we can comment and give views on.”
The United Nations also condemned the attack.
“The continuing use of suicide attacks in densely populated areas, that are certain to kill and maim large numbers of Afghan civilians, may amount to a war crime,” stated Nicholas Haysom, the head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.
Ghani asked the Taliban to join the Afghan army in the fight against ISIS. However, if any Taliban member decides to join ISIS, he will “earn the wrath of Afghanistan’s religious leaders.”
Before the bank attack, a planted bomb exploded in front of a religious shrine, which wounded two people. Police officers also found another bomb on a motorcycle in front of the Central Bank of Afghanistan, but managed to detonate “it under controlled conditions.”
“The use of suicide bombs and other devices in such an indiscriminate way by insurgent groups clearly constitutes a war crime, and those responsible for organizing or perpetrating such attacks must be brought to justice,” claimed Ivan Simonovic, the United Nations’ Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights.